Lotte’s Fall Baseball All-In Contest Revealed…KBO’s Waiting List Leader + 1.48 ERA Ace is Worth a Try

Lotte is going all-in on fall baseball. It’s off to a good start.

Lotte achieved a team no-hitter against Sajik SSG on the 6th. This is the third such feat in KBO history. The team no-hitter was led by Aaron Wilkerson, who started the game and pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks.

Wilkerson had reached 95 pitches by the seventh inning, but Lotte made a pitching change in the top of the eighth inning with Koo Seung-min, one of their best pitchers. It paid off. After Koo Seung-min pitched a scoreless eighth inning, Lotte took a 1-0 lead on Yoon Dong-hee’s RBI double in the bottom of the eighth, then sent closer Kim Won-joong to the mound in the top of the ninth to preserve the one-run lead and secure the team’s no-hitter.

However, I was curious about the reason for the drastic change of the starting pitcher who was in the middle of a no-hitter. “As a manager, if a starter is throwing a no-hitter, it’s right to push him until he gets a hit, but Wilkerson had already pitched on Tuesday (Aug. 1), so it was his second start in a week. It was also the first time he had thrown close to 100 pitches since coming to Korea, so we decided to change him in the middle of the no-hitter,” Lotte manager Larry Sutton said before the game against Gochuk Kiwoom on August 8.

There was one more reason. “We made the decision to make the pitching change because we need Wilkerson to be healthy for the rest of the season,” Sutton added. Lotte went all-in on fall baseball when they decided to use Wilkerson and another foreign pitcher, Charlie Barnes, in a “four-day rest” system, so Wilkerson’s no-hitter wasn’t a priority.

“Wilkerson and Barnes will now be on a four-day rest schedule,” Sutton said. “We made this decision because they’re both feeling good right now and we need to keep moving forward toward the postseason.”

Lotte caused a stir by leading the league through May, but has since slipped to seventh place. They are 4.5 games behind fifth-place Doosan and need a breakthrough. The team will look to Wilkerson and Barnes, who are currently in the best shape in the starting rotation.

Wilkerson has been pitching above expectations since joining the team, going 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three appearances. In his KBO debut against Doosan in Jamsil on March 26, Wilkerson pitched five innings of six-hit ball with two walks and two strikeouts to earn the win, and against Sasik NC on March 1, he pitched six innings of six-hit ball with one walk and three runs to earn a Quality Start (QS). Add to that the fact that he was part of a team no-hitter against SSG on the 6th, and you can see that his adjustment to the KBO is going well.

Barnes has turned into an ace in the second half. After failing to live up to expectations in the first half of the season, going 5-6 with a 4.57 ERA, Barnes burned the bridges of the bench with his particularly up-and-down pitching, but in the second half of the season, he has turned things around with three wins and a 1.48 ERA in four games.

Based on his second half performance alone, his ERA is the third-best in the league behind Young-pyo Ko (KT-0.82) and Thomas Pannoni (KIA-1.47). Barnes also faced one of the best pitchers in the KBO, Ahn Woo-jin, against Gochuk Kiwoom on Aug. 8, and still managed to throw 5⅔ innings of one-hit ball with two walks and seven strikeouts. Although Barnes was unable to pick up the win, Lotte was able to pick up a valuable point with a 3-1 victory.

Once again, Barnes’ pitch count was under 100 at 93, but Lotte made a knife-like pitching change. Barnes’ next start is scheduled for April 13 against the Sasik KIA. Sutton said, “We always manage the pitch count of our starting pitchers. Of course, we’re not going to take Wilkerson and Barnes out early every time. But we’re not going to give them 120-plus pitches,” Sutton said, noting that he will be watching the timing of their rotations closely.안전놀이터

It may be a risky gamble to space out the appearances of two of the starters in the rotation at this point in the regular season. However, with Park Se-woong and Na Gyun-an on the baseball team for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, and Park struggling in the second half of the season with a 3-3 record and 6.06 ERA, and Na Gyun-an out of the first team with a left hamstring strain, Lotte needed to be prepared for the possibility of a complete collapse of its starting pitching staff.

Lotte’s all-in gamble for fall baseball has paid off, as the team has entrusted two of its most reliable pitchers with the crucial task of pitching on four days’ rest. So far, so good.

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